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DBQ Essay. Step 1. Know that you will be given 15 minutes to read the prompt, analyze the documents, and do any prewriting. When those 15 minutes are up, it is time to begin writing. This section covers those 15 minutes. Step 2.

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step 1
Step 1
  • Know that you will be given 15 minutes to read the prompt, analyze the documents, and do any prewriting. When those 15 minutes are up, it is time to begin writing. This section covers those 15 minutes.
step 2
Step 2
  • Read the prompt. Determine what sort of evidence you will have to find in the documents based on the prompt question. Always circle or underline the specific society (or societies) being asked about, the time period, and the key concepts (like economic or cultural problems) that are mentioned in the prompt. DBQ essays will ask you to do one of the following:
    • Prompt 1: Analyze the extent to which a historical stereotype is true for a given period or concept. Example: Analyze the extent to which the Suffragettes were depicted as manly, uncivilized women during the 1890’s to the 1920’s.
    • Prompt 2: Analyze multiple reasons that cause a particular movement to develop. Example: Analyze the reasons that the Progressive Movement gained momentum during the 1890’s to the 1920’s in the United States.
step 3
Step 3
  • Think about what outside information about the societies, time period, or theme, come to mind. This should be information you learned in class or read about in your textbook. This outside information will make up most of your essay. You should use the documents provided to support this outside information. Outside information can be events in history, themes you have studied about the specific time period you are writing about, movements, people, etc. List the relevant outside information on a piece of scratch paper.
    • Example for any of the prompts listed above: Think about the major goals of the Progressive era (such as increased health and safety codes in factories, limiting child labor etc.), the political and economic climate of the era (such as WWI, the rise of unions, and the monopoly of major men such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc.)
step 4
Step 4
  • Determine your opinion or perspective on the prompt. Is there a specific answer that jumps out at you?
    • Example: What stands out about the Progressive era? What do you think about woman’s fight for suffrage?
step 5
Step 5
  • Formulate a tentative thesis before you look at the documents. By doing this, you will more quickly be able to determine how each document will fit into your essay. Here are example theses for each prompt listed above:
    • Prompt 1: Suffragettes were seen as unpatriotic, unfeminine women by those who opposed the idea of women having the right to vote during the 1890’s to 1920 in the United States.
    • Prompt 2: The Progressive movement gained momentum in the 1890’s to 1920’s because many American citizens were appalled by the living conditions of the poor and the economic climate in which trusts dominated the major sources of income in America.
step 6
Step 6
  • Look at and analyze the documents. Documents can include historical writings or publications (such as quotations, diary entries, letters, book excerpts etc.), charts, maps, photographs, illustrations, pictures of artifacts or cartoons. What is the main idea of each document? How does a document fit into the prompt? How does the document fit your tentative thesis? Jot down notes next to each document. Pay attention to the chronology of the documents. Look for change over time (or for LACK of change over time). Analyze it.
step 7
Step 7
  • Determine what logical categories the documents can be placed in to best address the topic question. For instance, what documents could you use to compare and contrast (if your prompt asks you to do so)? You must all of the documents except for one in your essay.
    • Example: A letter about the methods used to obtain the right to vote sent from one suffragette to another could be contrasted with an article in a newspaper depicting suffragettes as unpatriotic women who hoped to sabotage WWI for the United States.
step 8
Step 8
  • Keep in mind that you must discuss the point of view (POV) of an author at least in your essay. You should discuss the points of view of authors that support your thesis. When reading through the documents, note who the author of the document is, what his/her point of view is, and why you think his/her point of view is the way it is.
    • Example One of the documents is a suffragette’s diary entry in which she writes about her passion for the Women’s Rights Movement. The author is the suffragette, her POV would be that she strongly believes in the Women’s Rights Movement (you would list specific details) and the reason behind her POV is that many women, and some men, thought it was wrong for women to not have the right to vote and believed something needed to be done.
step 9
Step 9
  • Group the documents into proper groups. Grouping historical documents must be done at least twice in your essay. The groups you make must support your thesis and make sense logically. The two (or more) groups must make sense and present two or more sides to your argument. You can group them as main groups, groups within groups, or in cross groupings.